This passage is part of a series of parables that Jesus told his disciples about the end times, when he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. In this parable, he compares himself to a king who separates the sheep from the goats based on how they treated him in his disguise as the least of his brothers and sisters.
Jesus says that when he comes, he will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”
Both groups will be surprised and ask him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did or did not help you?” And he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did or did not do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did or did not do for me.”
What does this parable teach us about how we should live as followers of Jesus? It teaches us three important lessons:
- First, it teaches us that Jesus identifies himself with the least of these. He is not only the King of kings and Lord of lords, but also the brother and friend of the poor and needy. He knows what it is like to be hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick and imprisoned. He experienced all these things during his earthly life. He also cares deeply for those who suffer these things today. He says that whatever we do for them, we do for him.
- Second, it teaches us that serving Jesus in the least of these is not an option, but a duty. It is not something we do out of pity or charity, but out of love and obedience. It is not something we do occasionally or randomly, but regularly and intentionally. It is not something we do only when it is convenient or comfortable, but also when it is costly or challenging. It is not something we do only for those who are like us or agree with us, but also for those who are different from us or oppose us. It is not something we do only for our friends or family, but also for our enemies or strangers. It is not something we do only for ourselves or our reward, but also for God’s glory and his kingdom.
- Third, it teaches us that serving Jesus in the least of these is not a way to earn salvation, but a reflection of our faith. It is not a condition for entering the kingdom of God, but a consequence of belonging to it. It is not a work that saves us, but a fruit that shows us. It is not a merit that makes us righteous, but a grace that transforms us. It is not a law that binds us, but a love that frees us.
Brothers and sisters, let us examine our hearts and lives today and see if we are truly living as sheep or goats. Are we serving Jesus in the least of these? Are we feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned? Are we doing this with joy and gratitude for what Jesus has done for us on the cross? Are we doing this with humility and compassion for what Jesus is doing in us by his Spirit? Are we doing this with hope and expectation for what Jesus will do for us when he comes again?
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ,
We thank you for your grace and mercy that saved us from our sins and gave us eternal life. We thank you for your love and compassion that identifies with us in our needs and